US 2446771 A
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Aug. 10, 1948. KNOWLAND 2,446,77i
METHOD OF IMPARTING SURFACE EFFECTS T0 THERMOPLASTIC SHEETS Filed Dec. 31, 1946 Patented Aug. 10, 1948 WTHOD F HMPARTING SURFACE EFFECTS T0 THERMOPLASTIC SHEETS Thomas M. owland, Belmont, Mesa, assignor to Boston Woven Hose & Rubber Company, Cambridge, Mass., a corporation of Massachusetts Application December 31, 1946, Serial No. 719,544
My invention comprises a new and improved continuous process of forming an ornamental or decorative surface finish upon sheets of thermoplastic materials of various kinds such as rubber, polymers and copolymers of vinyl acetate, vinyl chloride, vinyl butyral, polyethylene, polystyrene, and the like. 1
Sheet material of the type discussed is-usually heat-formed by calendering pressure at temperatures approximating 135150 C. and comes from the calender rolls with a rather dull and undistinguished surface appearance. In order to produce an attractive, marketable product it .is highly desirable to treat the surfaceeither to impart to it a smooth glossy sheen or to emboss or mold the surface to form a three-dimensional pattern, Products of this sort are used for stair treads, footwear, upholstering, and many other purposes.
Hitherto it has been customary to pass a length of the sheet material intoa long, heated platen mold, and press against the surface with a lengthy and heavy mold plate under conditions of temperature and pressure sufllcient to impart to the material the reverse of a pattern carried by the mold plate. Such equipment is necessarilly operated on a step-by-step basis; furthermore the plastic material tends to adhere to the mold surface, and it is often necessary to cool the mold before the material can be stripped off. Moreover the mold surface quickly fouls, entailing frequent stoppages for careful cleaning.
Another type of operation has been carried out on continuously operating machinery of the Rotocure type disclosed in'Patent'No. 2,039,271 dated April 28, 1936, and issued to Bierer. This machinery is organized about a heated revolving drum and a cooperating pressure band arranged to press the material against the moving drum. Attempts have been made to provide cylindrical mold shells for the drum but the expense of engraving a thin cylindrical mold and fitting it accurately upon the-drum has thus far proved almost prohibitive. Furthermore it is not possible to clean the mold while the machine is in operation. Consequently the drum surface may not be used satisfactorily to produce even a glossy surface, let alone a three-dimensional surface pattern.
The present inventionhas for its principal ob-' ject to produce desired surface eifects upon' moving pressure members in conjunction with a series of thin flexible mold plates fed sequentially upon the surface of the sheet as it enters the mold plates at the beginning of the pressure path and then cooling them prior to delivery from the path so that the plates will come easily away from the material.
Still another feature of my invention comprises passing themold plates through a cleaning step after they emerge from the machine, thus continuously supplying a stock of plates ready for use as fast as others are taken into the machine.
These and other objects and features of the invention will be best understood and appreciated from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment selected for purposes of illustration and shown in the accompanying drawings, in which:
Fig. 1 is a diagrammatic view in side elevation showing the process in operation with a rotating heated drum,
Fig. 2 is a view in cross section through a mold plate, and
Fig. 3 is a plan view of the finished product.
The process of my invention may be carried out with the assistance of any apparatus capable of performing the necessary'sequence of functions. In Fig. 1 I have shown, diagrammatically, one form of apparatus which has proved eminently satisfactory for the purpose. The machine is organized about a hollow steel drum to mounted for rotation on a shaft H and coupled to a stem line (not shown) by means of which the drum is heated to desired temperatures. I
have found that a drum approximately 74" longand 5' in diameter will produce satisfactory results when rotated at a rate f roughly six revolutions per hour. A thin flexible steel pressure band I it is looped about a top roll iii, a bottom roll [8 and a back roll 20 and passes over the surface of the drum to for approximately 230. The back roll it is mounted in adjustable bearings (not shown) by means of which the back roll 2t can be moved to and from the drum in in order to vary the pressure of the band i l upon the surface of the drum Ill. Mounted externally of the drum and the pressure band it is a heat transfer jacket of three segments. In the first segment 22 there is disposed a number of coils of tubing through which hot fluid or gas may be passed in order to apply heat to the pressure band i4 and to material fed between the band and the drum Ill. The second segment 24 also carries a number of coils as does the third segment 26. In carrying out the proces of my invention I prefer to pass high temperature gas or fluid through the coils in the segment 22, gas or fluid at a lower temperature through the coils in the segment 24 and refrigerated fluid through the coils in the segment 26. Iri front of the machine there is a shaft or reel 22 upon which is rolled up a long sheet or strip of the thermoplastic material which is to be treated, and the sheet is led over a pair of idler rolls l4 and 35 and the band I 4 and the surface of the drum ID; the sheet material follows the band l4 around the top roll I 6 and to they back roll 2. and then continues to another roll 32 on which the treated material is wound up. Mounted above the sheet material between the roll 28 and the bottom roll i8 are a pair of rolls 36 and 31 which support an endless belt 34. At the top of the drum Ill where the band l4 and the material 30 leave the surface of the drum there is mounted an angularly disposed discharging plate 39 extending across the complete width of the drum and leading to a second endless belt 40 carried by a pair of rolls 42 and 43.
I provide a number of thin, flexible, resilient metal plates 50 preferably made of steel and carrying on at least one surface the reverse of the type of finish desired to be imparted to the surface of the sheet material 30. When a smooth glossy surface is desired, the mold plates are flat, highly polished, and roughly .025" thick. When a threedimensional pattern is to be imparted to the surface of the sheet material 30, the mold plates used have a section thickness on the order of .065", are engraved, embossed, stamped, or otherwise treated to produce on their surfaces the reverse of the desired pattern. In Fig. 2 I have illustrated in cross section a typical mold plate used to produce a waille or grid surface effect. Of course any metal having the necessary characteristics may be employed. In Fig. 3 I have shown finished sheet material 30 exhibiting one type of surface which can be produced by the process of my invention. In this case the sheet material includes a thermoplastic layer 30 spread over a backing ply or lining 53 of fabric which forms a base or foundation. When the process is to be carried out the drum in is set in motion and one of the rolls l6, l8 or 20 is driven to cause the band H to move with the drum l0 and at the same speed as the surface speed of the drum. The mold plates 50 are fed onto the sheet material 30 and into the bite between the material and the endless belt 38 which is driven at the proper speed by means not shown. As soon as one of the mold plates 50 has disappeared under the belt 38 another one is fed in, with any suitable spacing between the two or in abutting relation. The plates 50 are carried sequentially into the bite between the drum l0 and the material 36 which is being pressed against the surface of the drum ill by the pressure band l4. Alternatively, for certain molding operations I may feed the mold plate 50 into the apparatus between the material 30 and the pressure band M. In the illustrative embodiment, however, the process is described wherein the plates 50- 'are fed between the material 30 and the drum surface. The mold 4 plates 50 are thin enough and flexible enough to conform to the arc of the surface of the drum.
The coils in the jacket segment 22 apply heat to the band and to the material 30 as well as to the mold plates 50. The drum III is also steam heated, as previously described. The heat thus applied softens the thermoplastic material II which is pressed against the surface of the mold plates 50. If a selected mold plate 50 has a threedimensional' pattern, the thermoplastic material 20 flows into the depressions or valleys and assumes the reverse of the pattern on the plate. When the plate reaches that portion of the path about the drum adjacent the coils in the segment 24 the temperature slowly begins to reduce, approaching the hardening point of the material 30. When the plate reaches the portion of the path about the drum adjacent the segment 28, heat is withdrawn from the band, the material, and the plate and the thermoplastic material is cooled below the hardening point. When the plate 50 begins to emerge from the bite of the band and the drum, its natural resiliency lifts it away from the surface of the drum Ill and it slides on the top of the discharging plate 39. At one, point in it's travel, the rear end of each mold plate 50 will be held against the surface of the drum by the band 14 and the material 30, while the forward end of the plate is free. At that same time the forward portion of the material 30 formerly against the plate 50 is being curved up to follow the band l4 about the surface of the top roll Ii. The result is a resilient force tending to separate the plate 50 from the thermoplastic material 30. The fact that the thermoplastic material has been cooled makes it easy to separate the plate 50 from the sheet of material 30 and the plate 50 drops onto the endless belt 40 which carries it away from the drum It].
From the belt 40 the mold plates 50 may be carried manually or on a conveyor system to a cleaning station. Here an operator scrubs each plate with a suitable cleanser such, for example, as a soap solution containing abrasive matter. The plates are rinsed and dried and are then ready to be fed back onto the material 36. It is contemplated that for an efficient continuous process there will be provided a suflicient number of the plates and cleaning stations so that clean plates are delivered at the same rate as others are being fed onto the material 30. In this manner it is brought about that the molding surfaces of the plates are always in prime condition before the molding operation is carried out.
It is to be understood that the process of my invention is by no means limited to the form of apparatus shown in the drawing. It is only necessary to provide a pair of pressure members which can be moved continuously to form a pressure path of satisfactory length through which the material and the plates may be moved and to which varying amounts of heat may be applied. The apparatus shown in the drawing is the most efficient and convenient presently known to me for the purpose of practicing the process I have invented.
An important advantage of my apparatus and process is that the mold patterns may be changed at will without interrupting the operational cycle. If one mold plate should ever become fouled with and spoil the surface of the material 30, the damage would be confined to the area of that one mold plate only, hence work spoilage from any cause is kept at a minimum.
I may provide mold plates 50 which are equal in length to the width of the sheet of material along an element of the drum surface 2| or I may feed two or more mold plates at a time each half as long as the material width or length, and each having a surface characteristic or contour different from the other so as to mold two or more different patterns upon different portions of the same sheet material simultaneously.
It will thus be seen that there has been provided by this invention a method and apparatus in which the various objects hereinabove set forth together with many thoroughly practical advantages are successfully achieved.
As various possible embodiments might be made of the mechanical features of the above invention and as the art herein described might be varied in various parts, all without departing from the scope of the invention, it is to be understood that all matter hereinbefore set forth or shown in the accompanying drawings is to be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. Having thus disclosed my invention and described in detail a preferred manner of practicing it, I claim as new and desire to secure by Letters Patent:
1. A continuous process of imparting ornamental surface finish to thermoplastic sheets, which includes the steps of passing an endless pressure band in a, looped path about a substantial portion of the circumference of a heated rotating drum, introducing a thermoplastic sheet between the drum and pressure band thereby advancing the sheet under conditions of heat and pressure, and feeding a series of thin flexible metal plates between the drum and the sheet, each plate having a three dimensional surface pattern disposed to lie against the sheet.
2. A continuous process of imparting an omamental surface finish to thermoplastic sheets, which includes the steps of passing a sheet into the bite of a heated cylinder and a pressure band moving simultaneously in an extended arcuate path, and sequentially feeding into the bite a series of thin flexible metal molds having embossed surfaces, the embossed surfaces being fed into contact with one surface of the thermoplastic material, applying heat externally upon said band in progressively decreasing amounts from the bite along a portion of the arcuate path, and withdrawing heat from the band, sheet, and mold while in said arcuate path in advance of the delivery end thereof.
3. A continuous process of imparting an ornamental surface finish to thermoplastic sheet mabite of a revolving heated drum and an endless pressure band moving through a looped path including a substantial portion of the circumference of the drum, laying upon the sheet before it reaches the drum a series of thin flexible plates having surfaces arranged to contact the sheet and treated to produce desired surface effects thereon, heating the band, sheet and plates during the first portion of the passage about the drum, and cooling the band, sheet and plates before the end of the passage about the drum.
4. A continuous process of imparting an orna mental surface finish to thermoplastic sheet material, which includes feedin the sheet into the bite of a revolving heated drum and an endless pressure band moving through a looped path including a substantial portion of the circumference of the drum, laying upon the sheet before it reaches the drum a series of thin flexible plates having surfaces arranged to contact the sheet and treated to produce desired surface effects, heating the band, sheet and plates to a relatively high temperature during the initial portion of their passage about the drum, and progressively lowering the temperature of the drum, sheet and plates until the temperature of the sheet drops below the softening point of the thermoplastic material prior to completion of the passage about the drum.
5. The process of continuously molding thermoplastic sheet material under conditions of pressure and heat which includes the steps of feeding the material and traversing it between a pressin member whose surface is linearly movable and a flexible pressure member looped over part of the surface of said pressing member and cooperatively moving with its surface, feeding flexible mold plates between the pressing member and the pressure member in contact with the material, one surface of said mold plates having been conformed to mold said material as desired, said material being cooled below its softening point during one stage of the process, and separating the cool material and the mold plates.
THOMAS M. KNOWLAND.
REFERENCES CITED The following references are of record in the file of this patent:
UNITED STATES PATENTS